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Kumar Kshitij Patel, Lingxiao Wang, Aadirupa Saha, Nati Sebro

We study the problems of distributed online and bandit convex optimization against an adaptive adversary. We aim to minimize the average regret on $M$ machines working in parallel over $T$ rounds with $R$ intermittent communications. Assuming the underlying cost functions are convex and can be generated adaptively, our results show that collaboration is not beneficial when the machines have access to the first-order gradient information at the queried points. This is in contrast to the case for stochastic functions, where each machine samples the cost functions from a fixed distribution. Furthermore, we delve into the more challenging setting of federated online optimization with bandit (zeroth-order) feedback, where the machines can only access values of the cost functions at the queried points. The key finding here is identifying the high-dimensional regime where collaboration is beneficial and may even lead to a linear speedup in the number of machines. We further illustrate our findings through federated adversarial linear bandits by developing novel distributed single and two-point feedback algorithms. Our work is the first attempt towards a systematic understanding of federated online optimization with limited feedback, and it attains tight regret bounds in the intermittent communication setting for both first and zeroth-order feedback. Our results thus bridge the gap between stochastic and adaptive settings in federated online optimization.

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Minbiao Han, Kumar Kshitij Patel, Han Shao, Lingxiao Wang

Federated learning is a machine learning protocol that enables a large population of agents to collaborate over multiple rounds to produce a single consensus model. There are several federated learning applications where agents may choose to defect permanently$-$essentially withdrawing from the collaboration$-$if they are content with their instantaneous model in that round. This work demonstrates the detrimental impact of such defections on the final model's robustness and ability to generalize. We also show that current federated optimization algorithms fail to disincentivize these harmful defections. We introduce a novel optimization algorithm with theoretical guarantees to prevent defections while ensuring asymptotic convergence to an effective solution for all participating agents. We also provide numerical experiments to corroborate our findings and demonstrate the effectiveness of our algorithm.

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Lingxiao Wang, Gert Aarts, Kai Zhou

This study delves into the connection between machine learning and lattice field theory by linking generative diffusion models (DMs) with stochastic quantization, from a stochastic differential equation perspective. We show that DMs can be conceptualized by reversing a stochastic process driven by the Langevin equation, which then produces samples from an initial distribution to approximate the target distribution. In a toy model, we highlight the capability of DMs to learn effective actions. Furthermore, we demonstrate its feasibility to act as a global sampler for generating configurations in the two-dimensional $\phi^4$ quantum lattice field theory.

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Lingxiao Wang, Gert Aarts, Kai Zhou

In this work, we establish a direct connection between generative diffusion models (DMs) and stochastic quantization (SQ). The DM is realized by approximating the reversal of a stochastic process dictated by the Langevin equation, generating samples from a prior distribution to effectively mimic the target distribution. Using numerical simulations, we demonstrate that the DM can serve as a global sampler for generating quantum lattice field configurations in two-dimensional $\phi^4$ theory. We demonstrate that DMs can notably reduce autocorrelation times in the Markov chain, especially in the critical region where standard Markov Chain Monte-Carlo (MCMC) algorithms experience critical slowing down. The findings can potentially inspire further advancements in lattice field theory simulations, in particular in cases where it is expensive to generate large ensembles.

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Haoran He, Chenjia Bai, Hang Lai, Lingxiao Wang, Weinan Zhang

Reinforcement Learning (RL) has recently achieved remarkable success in robotic control. However, most RL methods operate in simulated environments where privileged knowledge (e.g., dynamics, surroundings, terrains) is readily available. Conversely, in real-world scenarios, robot agents usually rely solely on local states (e.g., proprioceptive feedback of robot joints) to select actions, leading to a significant sim-to-real gap. Existing methods address this gap by either gradually reducing the reliance on privileged knowledge or performing a two-stage policy imitation. However, we argue that these methods are limited in their ability to fully leverage the privileged knowledge, resulting in suboptimal performance. In this paper, we propose a novel single-stage privileged knowledge distillation method called the Historical Information Bottleneck (HIB) to narrow the sim-to-real gap. In particular, HIB learns a privileged knowledge representation from historical trajectories by capturing the underlying changeable dynamic information. Theoretical analysis shows that the learned privileged knowledge representation helps reduce the value discrepancy between the oracle and learned policies. Empirical experiments on both simulated and real-world tasks demonstrate that HIB yields improved generalizability compared to previous methods.

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Shuai Han, Lukas Stelz, Horst Stoecker, Lingxiao Wang, Kai Zhou

A physics-informed neural network (PINN) embedded with the susceptible-infected-removed (SIR) model is devised to understand the temporal evolution dynamics of infectious diseases. Firstly, the effectiveness of this approach is demonstrated on synthetic data as generated from the numerical solution of the susceptible-asymptomatic-infected-recovered-dead (SAIRD) model. Then, the method is applied to COVID-19 data reported for Germany and shows that it can accurately identify and predict virus spread trends. The results indicate that an incomplete physics-informed model can approach more complicated dynamics efficiently. Thus, the present work demonstrates the high potential of using machine learning methods, e.g., PINNs, to study and predict epidemic dynamics in combination with compartmental models.

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Lingxiao Wang, Ping Li

Model-based Reinforcement Learning (MBRL) has been widely adapted due to its sample efficiency. However, existing worst-case regret analysis typically requires optimistic planning, which is not realistic in general. In contrast, motivated by the theory, empirical study utilizes ensemble of models, which achieve state-of-the-art performance on various testing environments. Such deviation between theory and empirical study leads us to question whether randomized model ensemble guarantee optimism, and hence the optimal worst-case regret? This paper partially answers such question from the perspective of reward randomization, a scarcely explored direction of exploration with MBRL. We show that under the kernelized linear regulator (KNR) model, reward randomization guarantees a partial optimism, which further yields a near-optimal worst-case regret in terms of the number of interactions. We further extend our theory to generalized function approximation and identified conditions for reward randomization to attain provably efficient exploration. Correspondingly, we propose concrete examples of efficient reward randomization. To the best of our knowledge, our analysis establishes the first worst-case regret analysis on randomized MBRL with function approximation.

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Yufeng Zhang, Boyi Liu, Qi Cai, Lingxiao Wang, Zhaoran Wang

With the attention mechanism, transformers achieve significant empirical successes. Despite the intuitive understanding that transformers perform relational inference over long sequences to produce desirable representations, we lack a rigorous theory on how the attention mechanism achieves it. In particular, several intriguing questions remain open: (a) What makes a desirable representation? (b) How does the attention mechanism infer the desirable representation within the forward pass? (c) How does a pretraining procedure learn to infer the desirable representation through the backward pass? We observe that, as is the case in BERT and ViT, input tokens are often exchangeable since they already include positional encodings. The notion of exchangeability induces a latent variable model that is invariant to input sizes, which enables our theoretical analysis. - To answer (a) on representation, we establish the existence of a sufficient and minimal representation of input tokens. In particular, such a representation instantiates the posterior distribution of the latent variable given input tokens, which plays a central role in predicting output labels and solving downstream tasks. - To answer (b) on inference, we prove that attention with the desired parameter infers the latent posterior up to an approximation error, which is decreasing in input sizes. In detail, we quantify how attention approximates the conditional mean of the value given the key, which characterizes how it performs relational inference over long sequences. - To answer (c) on learning, we prove that both supervised and self-supervised objectives allow empirical risk minimization to learn the desired parameter up to a generalization error, which is independent of input sizes. Particularly, in the self-supervised setting, we identify a condition number that is pivotal to solving downstream tasks.

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Shuang Qiu, Lingxiao Wang, Chenjia Bai, Zhuoran Yang, Zhaoran Wang

In view of its power in extracting feature representation, contrastive self-supervised learning has been successfully integrated into the practice of (deep) reinforcement learning (RL), leading to efficient policy learning in various applications. Despite its tremendous empirical successes, the understanding of contrastive learning for RL remains elusive. To narrow such a gap, we study how RL can be empowered by contrastive learning in a class of Markov decision processes (MDPs) and Markov games (MGs) with low-rank transitions. For both models, we propose to extract the correct feature representations of the low-rank model by minimizing a contrastive loss. Moreover, under the online setting, we propose novel upper confidence bound (UCB)-type algorithms that incorporate such a contrastive loss with online RL algorithms for MDPs or MGs. We further theoretically prove that our algorithm recovers the true representations and simultaneously achieves sample efficiency in learning the optimal policy and Nash equilibrium in MDPs and MGs. We also provide empirical studies to demonstrate the efficacy of the UCB-based contrastive learning method for RL. To the best of our knowledge, we provide the first provably efficient online RL algorithm that incorporates contrastive learning for representation learning. Our codes are available at https://github.com/Baichenjia/Contrastive-UCB.

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